TAUNTON’S Park and Ride Saturday service is being re-instated next month.

From November 2, buses will run every 20 minutes from the sites at Junction 25 and Silk Mills.

Somerset West and Taunton council has been supporting Somerset County Council and the operator Buses of Somerset with a strategy to deliver a financially sustainable model for the Park and Ride service after plans were announced to suspend it in 2018.

The former Taunton Deane Borough Council stepped in with a contribution of £170,000 to keep the Park and Ride service running until September 2019.

SWT made a further provision of £135,000 in July to enable the service to continue until March 2020, and explore measures to secure its long term sustainability.

This has led to the reintroduction of the Saturday service between 8.30am and 6pm until at least March 2020.

Somerset County Gazette:
ALL ABOARD!: Somerset County Council cabinet member for highways, John Woodman, with Buses of Somerset managing director Alex Carter and Taunton Deane Borough Council leader, John Williams, when the services were relaunched

Cllr Mike Rigby, executive member for planning and transport, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to negotiate provision of the Saturday service for the time being.

"I hope that people will make good use of it and demonstrate a case for keeping the Saturday service in the long term as we work to put Park and Ride on a sound commercial footing for the future.

"Park and Ride is an efficient, cost-effective way of getting into the town centre and it helps to reduce congestion and pollution in line with our goal to become a carbon neutral district by 2030.

"We hope it will also provide a boost to the retail economy particularly in the run up to Christmas.”

READ MORE: Council considering closing Saturday park-and-ride services in Taunton

SWT is liaising with the retail and business community about incentives to encourage greater use of the Park and Ride service.

It hopes that businesses will join a saver scheme to offer Park and Ride customers discounts or rewards which will attract shoppers into their stores.

Responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the Park and Ride contract and service remains with SCC and the contracted bus operator.

Cllr John Woodman, SCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We’re pleased to be working with SWT and Buses of Somerset to explore ways to make the Park and Ride service more sustainable for the future.

"The introduction of a Saturday service is a hugely positive step forward and I hope it will be a big success.”

READ MORE: Taunton park and ride services relaunched - but prices are set to rise

Alex Carter, managing director of Buses of Somerset, added: “Working in partnership with both councils, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, as well as other businesses in Taunton, we’re satisfied that the work we’ve done to rebrand, promote and put the Taunton Park and Ride on a financially sustainable footing has paid off.

"Introducing a Saturday service is a logical next step in the development of the Taunton Park and Ride service, which we recognise plays an important role to the retail sector in challenging times.”Somerset County Gazette:

CLOSURES: How your County Gazette broke news of the closure proposals in August 2018

County Councillor, John Hunt, said: “Well it looks as though we’re getting somewhere at last with saving and extending Taunton’s Park and Ride Service - requested on my Facebook Page last May and highlighted regularly at District Council meetings. Although this is good news, I’m still very concerned that this is only a ‘trial’ and will continue to push for it to be made permanent. 

"We still need the service to operate later on weekdays and include Sundays, particularly to encourage staff at Musgrove Park Hospital to make greater use of it. This will clearly release valuable parking spaces at the hospital and alleviate the worsening parking issues in residential areas surrounding the hospital facility. 

"You’ll no doubt remember back in August last year, we ran a successful petition to save the service on social media, reaching in excess of 47,000 of you. However we are not there yet, but this is I hope, a significant step forward and I very much welcome it."